After getting a taste for blood as children, Hansel (Jeremy Renner) and Gretel (Gemma Arterton) have become the ultimate vigilantes, hell bent on retribution. Now, unbeknownst to them, Hansel and Gretel have become the hunted, and must face an evil far greater than witches...their past.
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For the uninitiated, the story of Hansel and Gretel is a Brothers Grimm fairy tale about a couple of children who are abandoned in the woods and come across a gingerbread house that is occupied by a witch who captures them, and they escape by pushing her into her oven before she can cook and eat them. The new revisionist fairy tale movie Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters
picks up right there; Hansel (Jeremy Renner from The Avengers
) and Gretel (The Disappearance of Alice Creed
's Gemma Arterton) become celebrities, famous for their witch killing and, with a huge chip on their shoulders, travel the land getting paid to rid towns of their witch problems. Their latest job finds them summoned to a frantic town led by Mayor Engleman (Rainer Bock from Inglourious Basterds
) and Sheriff Berringer (Fargo
's Peter Stormare), where children are being kidnapped by an evil witch. Hansel and Gretel know that they must act fast because the legendary Blood Moon is approaching, and that's the period when witches can do the most harm to humans. The mercenaries pick up a few allies along the way: an aspiring witch killer named Ben (Project X
's Thomas Mann), a young woman accused of witchcraft named Mina (Pihla Viitala from Hellsinki
), and a massive but friendly troll named Edward (motion captured by Friday the 13th
's Derek Mears and voiced by experienced voiceover actor Robin Atkin Downes from How to Train Your Dragon
). The group must do battle with the evil witch Muriel (X-Men
's Famke Janssen) and her minions in order to rescue the children of the town.
Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters
is not as bad as it sounds. In fact, it's very entertaining. Director Tommy Wirkola (Dead Snow
), who wrote the script along with newcomer D.W. Harper, takes the formulaic plot and revs it full of action and adventure. The story is fairly straightforward, getting from point A to point B economically while saving the twists and turns for the climactic ending. There's not a whole lot of character development, and the little bit that does occur is predictable and typical, but Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters
is not a character driven film; it's a popcorn film, and an effective one at that.
Not surprisingly, Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters
falls into the same vein as Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter
. It's an absurd, exploitation concept that succeeds in its execution. It's a triumph of spectacle over substance; the fun is more in the journey than in the destination. The visual effects are slick (especially Edward the troll, who is one of the coolest characters in the film - think Gollum meets The Hulk), the acting is serviceable, and the script is paced well enough to not drag. At the end of the day, Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters
is what it is, and pretends to be nothing more.
Between The Avengers
and The Bourne Legacy
, Jeremy Renner has established a solid niche as an action hero, and he is right at home in Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters
. Gemma Arteron is no stranger to the genre herself, having been in Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time
and Clash of the Titans
. Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters
is almost non-stop action, barely giving the viewer time to breathe. Some of the fight scenes suffer from the cinematography; they are shot a bit too close for the audience to see what's really going on, especially in the IMAX setting. Nevertheless, the action segments are expertly paced and very well edited (thanks to film editor Jim Page, who also worked on Disturbia
and I Am Number Four
). The painstaking choreography combined with the slick production value make the action scenes the real high points in Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters
Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters
is not a horror movie; it's an action/adventure/fantasy film. As such, it's not incredibly scary. Still, audiences should not be fooled by its fairy tale roots; it is in no way, shape, or form intended for children. The imagery is disturbing and frightening in the same way as the imagery in other revisionist fairy tales like Snow White and the Huntsman
and Red Riding Hood
. The stories are brutal and the heroes have a lot of blood on their hands, with no apologies given. Although Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters
won't inspire any nightmares among horror fans, it definitely earns its R rating.